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A Hay Expo experience

02/13/2012 @ 10:18am

I recently attended an alfalfa expo in Kearney, Nebraska. That’s just how wild and crazy I am: I’ll drive seven hours simply to attend an event that’s all about hay.

This voyage involved traversing a good portion of Nebraska. I am a chronic channel surfer and soon discovered that Nebraska has an abundance of “oldies” stations. Nothing makes the road slip by faster than healthy doses of The Stones, Boston, Foghat and CCR. I’m just lucky I didn’t get picked up for speeding when “We’re An American Band” thumped out of the speakers.

There was ample time make observations. At one point, I passed a farmstead that contained copious amounts of, shall we say, retired farm machinery. Which made me wonder: would the phrase “tidy rows of junk” constitute an oxymoron?

I also perceived that Nebraskans don’t agree on how to pronounce “Norfolk.” Some of those on the radio pronounced it as “nor fork” while others said “nor folk”. Confusingly, we have an English friend who says it as “no fick”. They should hold a vote to clear this up; had I not been better informed, I might have concluded that these were three distinct towns.

The weather was predicted to fine, but such was not the case. This isn’t the first time the weatherman has lied to me.

Snow began to fall as I motored down the flat-as-a-billiard-table Platte River valley. Visibility became both a problem and a source of wonderment.

A sextet of geese abruptly materialized from the murk, winged phantasms that swiftly and silently melted back into the gray. A mile-long coal train approached, blowing its mighty air horn as it was birthed by a shimmering, swirling cloud of white.

Finally arriving at Kearney, I opted to explore the town a bit. Imagine my disappointment upon learning that the city does not contain a home for retired carnival workers!

The alfalfa exposition was interesting, especially if your interests include such things as rakes and hay tarps. In a booth that promoted baling twine, a couple of guys were using an antique hand-cranked device to twist innumerable strands of plastic twine into rope.

An older guy stood nearby, giving advice to the novice rope makers. I chatted with the old guy and learned that he had grown up manufacturing rope in this manner and continued to do so as a hobby.

“Dad and I would start out with a bunch of binder twine and crank out an entire hay rope,” he said. “What a chore! It took purt near the whole day!”

I usually don’t notice such things, but the old guy’s breath was strong enough to scour the rust off a cast iron skillet. After we finished talking, I surreptitiously slipped a fresh Altoid into my mouth.

I later went to a restaurant and treated myself to a steak. When in Rome; Nebraska, after all, is the home of Omaha Beef.

The booth next to me was occupied by a fellow whom I took to be a hit man. He was big and mean-looking, with nasty Van Dyke whiskers and a pate that was shaved down to its blue roots.     

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